McConnell urged White House not to make stimulus deal ahead of election

Grace Segers
·4 min read

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Senate Republicans Tuesday that he urged the White House against making a deal on a large coronavirus stimulus bill ahead of the election, a source familiar confirmed to CBS News.

McConnell publicly said on Tuesday that he would bring a "presidentially-supported bill" to the Senate floor for a vote "at some point." His main focus in the final two weeks before Election Day is on confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice.

"If a presidentially-supported bill clears the House, at some point we'll bring it to the floor," McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.

McConnell's position could kill any hope of a stimulus bill passing before the election, despite the continued efforts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to reach a deal. Pelosi and Mnuchin have continued negotiations over a relief bill after Pelosi had set a Tuesday deadline to reach a deal on legislation that could be passed in Congress ahead of the election.

Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke by phone on Tuesday afternoon. A spokesperson for Pelosi wrote on Twitter that the two spoke for 45 minutes and "their conversation provided more clarity and common ground as they move closer to an agreement."

"Today's deadline enabled the Speaker and Secretary to see that decisions could be reached and language could be exchanged, demonstrating that both sides are serious about finding a compromise," said Drew Hammill, Pelosi's deputy chief of staff. "On several open questions, the Speaker and the Secretary called for the committee chairs to work to resolve differences about funding levels and language. With this guidance, the two principals will continue their discussions tomorrow afternoon upon the Secretary's return."

The speaker said earlier in the day that she believed "we're on a path" to achieving a deal.

"We're on a path, and you have to be optimistic," Pelosi said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. "As the secretary and I say to each other, 'If we didn't believe we could get this done, why would we even be talking?'"

The two remain at odds over tax credits for families with children, how much aid should be provided to state and local jurisdictions and whether to include liability shields for businesses and other organizations.

Pelosi said over the weekend that she believed a deal would have to be reached by Tuesday in order to move legislation through both houses of Congress. She told Bloomberg TV that the text of the bill would have to be crafted by the end of this week, with a vote in the House by the end of next week.

However, Pelosi signaled that she would be willing to continue negotiations with the White House even if Congress is unable to get a bill passed before Election Day.

"We could still continue the negotiation. It might not be finished by Election Day," Pelosi said. "We still should have a responsibility to continue the negotiations, should we just not come to enough of an agreement and reconciliation of our differences."

The White House has inched closer to offering $2 trillion for a relief bill, although Pelosi has continued to hold firm to the priorities outlined in the $2.4 trillion bill passed in the House last month. White House deputy communications director Brian Morgenstern said in an interview with Fox Business on Tuesday that the White House had agreed to a $1.88 trillion package.

Meanwhile, President Trump has indicated that he would be willing to go even higher on a stimulus bill than what the Democrats have proposed.

"I want to do it even bigger than the Democrats," Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday morning. "And not every Republican agrees with me. They will."

However, it is unclear whether enough Republicans will support the bill. Several GOP senators have expressed reservations about voting for a bill that would cost around $2 trillion. Even if every Democrat voted for the bill, it would still need support from 13 Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold to pass. Senator John Thune, the majority whip, told reporters on Monday that "it would be hard" to get enough Republicans to support $2 trillion legislation.

But Senate Republicans are more supportive of a slimmer $500 billion measure that will receive a vote on Wednesday. The bill does not include several Democratic priorities, such as funding for state and local governments and a second round of direct payments, so it would be unlikely to pass in the House even if it were approved in the Senate. Even if all 53 Republicans in the Senate supported the $500 billion measure on Wednesday, it is unlikely to receive any votes from Democratic defectors, meaning that this bill will also probably fail to pass.

Nancy Cordes contributed to this report.

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